With all the riots and turmoil happening this last week after another historic election a lightbulb went on. I’m writing the final section in my parenting book Being Her Superhero: A Father’s Guide to Raising A Happy, Healthy Successful Daughter and I’m on the appendix which has important lessons I am writing to supplement my 200 page autobiographical guide. Topics like teaching her to:
- Be empathetic
- Be Humble
- Be Vulnerable
- Laugh and have a sense of humor
- Be present, in the moment
- Be genuinely interested in everyone you meet
- Avoid social narcissism
- Be generous and altruistic
- Reciprocate praise (and take blame)
- To be love
So what exactly is empathy and why is it important to know?
Empathy is the power to understand perspectives other than your own and in a post-millennial world that is all about me, me, me and not we or us I definitely think it is ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL to help her understand what it is like to see the world through another’s eyes.
The key is not necessarily whether or not we should be teaching our children to be empathetic, rather how do you teach this?
Use these 5 steps to teach empathy to your kids. By following these steps we can all learn to understand the world better.
STEP 1: Watch & Listen: Figure out what is happening by asking “How does the other person feel?” and review strategies to figure the situation out by asking what are they feeling.
STEP 2: Remember & Ask: “Have you felt the same way or has something similar happened to you?”
STEP 3: Imagine: Imagine how you might feel and ask yourself questions like “Do you feel like crying or are you embarrassed?”
STEP 4: Find out how they are feeling: Ask caring questions like “Are you OK? What happened to you? How are you doing? How do you feel?”
STEP 5: Show you care: Listen with all your attention, spend time with them and stay with them (don’t leave). Saying “I’m sorry you’re feeling this way.” or encouraging them with questions like, “Let’s get help, How can I help? Do you need a hug? I’m here for you, etc.”
Now it’s your turn. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
Although this is a simple 5 step process there is nothing better than practice. Like everything else you want to master, empathy takes practice. You cannot do it for them, however you can demonstrate it to them. Be empathetic in front of them. Do this with everyone you know. Start with your family, friends, colleagues, strangers, your dog if you need some practice.
When your kids see you practicing empathy it will no longer matter what you say to them because you will be teaching them by demonstrate it.
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” ~ Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird